As Ketchum officials face pressure from opponents to defeat development of a second new downtown hotel, they need to remember the city’s development history, understand its economy and embrace the virtues of hotels.
The area’s economy lives and dies on visitor turnover throughout the seasons. Downtown hotels are the most efficient way to host healthy numbers of visitors.
They don’t gobble up open spaces or waste resources. They don’t block access to public fishing holes or hiking trails.
Unlike 60 percent of residential structures in the Wood River Valley, hotels don’t lie vacant for months on end.
Unlike short-term condo residential rentals today, they don’t reduce the supply or increase the price of long-term housing for local workers.
Hotels generate economic activity. As businesses, they must try to keep their rooms full to generate revenue and make a profit. So, they actively market their hotels to attract visitors.
The Ketchum City Council approved the city’s hotel sites while the jaws of the Great Recession closed on the town. It woke up to the fact that the area had lost significant numbers of hotel rooms.
It approved three downtown sites on Ketchum’s Main Street only after seeing studies of visual and sun impacts that it considered in public hearings.
These shaped the city ordinances that govern the design and height of new hotels. They also shaped the opportunity for developers to ask for variances, or waivers, to those ordinances in the name of good design and public benefit.
Consideration of a new hotel proposed in Ketchum’s core should not ignore the economic facts of life here, the city’s development history or the virtues of hotels.